August 26, 1951 - June 28, 2010
Willie Earl Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a member of the Young Tulsans All-City Band, and started playing clubs in 1968 with a local band called the “Imperial Sounds.” After graduation, Clark missed his first semester in college and studied the style of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Fortune, and local blues artists such as Flash Terry and Ray D. Rowe. He then went to Northeastern A&M in Miami, Oklahoma, where he formed his first band, “6 Plus,” later moving to Tahlequah. There, he attended Northeastern State University and became a serious follower of Grover Washington, playing lead alto in the jazz band.
After graduating from NSU, Clark formed a jazz fusion band called “Earl Clark and the Spectrum Band,” which has opened for Spyro Gyra, B. B. King, Tito Puente, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. The band also played at local festivals including Juneteenth on Greenwood and Jazz on Greenwood. After teaching jazz bands for several years, he settled at Central High School as an artist-in-residence. Clark conducted the OJHF Summer Institute program for several years.